How to Organize Collage Papers

So here’s a common challenge for all of us who love collage:  paper chaos!  What happens is that you start to collect beautiful papers and images— and before you know it, you have piles that grow…and grow…and grow!

Pretty soon, you have stacks of papers and images and bits everywhere. 

Not only can this collection quickly become a M E S S, but after a while you spend more time sifting through piles then actually creating.  

The answer, of course, is organizing your collection: sorting your piles ahead of time so that when you need a kind of paper or image, you will get it at your fingertips fast.  

Bins everywhere

At Createful Studio, we use bins., which are of course completely available for use while people work at the studio. Bins are great because you can pull out just one out at a time and start sifting through it. Also, there are all kinds of containers you can re-purpose or purchase for your bins to fit your space and your budget.

We have six bins for magazines, two bins for scrap bits, and onebig bin for large scrap drop papers—juicy painted papers left over from arting sessions (although it's getting pretty full, so it's time to add a second one!)

scrap drop papers

We also have a column of plastic bin drawers, each bin dedicated to a different kind of paper such as scrap scrapbook paper, dress pattern papers, images, maps, music pages, napkins, and more.

stacked bins at the studio

Now this bin system works well for the studio, but to tell you the truth their categories are pretty wide.  For your personal system, you may want a storage and retrieval system that is more specific. For instance, you might want to organize all your images separately into categories. Or you might want to organize your handmade and found papers into color groups.

I use a rolling cart of drawers just for images that sits below my desk:

rolling cart of images

There are many ways to organize images, by the way. I know some people use file folders or plastic clear folders or accordion coupon folders.  This rolling cart holds stacks of images separated by kinds in both plastic sleeves and—one of my favorite ways to hold a stack of small images—recycled foam meat trays.

recycled meat trays for images

I also have sets of plastic drawers that I purchase at Target in groups of three as I add more categories. Currently I have 18 drawers for different kinds of papers.

pull out drawers of images

Not unlike the stacked bins at the studio, these drawers in my personal collection just get more specific: from painty paper towels to napkins to "neutrals and metallics" (which I need to separate out soon as that bin is also growing too full). I also separate by color groups: red/purples, oranges/yellows, and blues/greens.

papers by color

The one constant with organizing collage papers is the fact that the collection will continue to grow. The more you create, the more you collect papers. There's nothing like making your own papersand finding them in our media-rich world—and who can resist beautiful scrapbook papers?  And then of course there are all those beautiful bits leftover from collage projects. I can't bear to throw them away! There is always that extra box lying around where I just throw in the leftover bits as I work…and more bits…and more bits…

boxes of little bits

Once you start collecting papers and other elements for collage, the piles grow for sure. The trick, I think, is to first keep your collection organized —I highly recommend bins—but the BEST way to keep your piles down is, of course, to feed your addiction passion for collage and use all those beautiful papers...big bits and little bits and all.

Hope this gave you some ideas for organizing your collage papers!